Welcome all to the St Andrew’s Pantomime Group 2018 AGM. It has been a year of many things. A year of continued success with 97% of tickets sold, a year of needing to fill some key roles such as costumes for adults and children and children’s co-ordination, but it has also been a year that marked the end of a genuine era.
Sadly, Alan Makinson passed away during this pantomime year. Alan our much loved and much respected brilliant Musical Director, Alan the patient friend to all of us lesser musical beings, Alan the nicest man you could ever wish to meet.
I am sure we all have our own memories of Alan, and having been friends with him for 30 years or so it is hard to recall specific instances from throughout that time. But one thing that will always stick with me was the original Little Miss Muffet show back in 1992. Alan, as well as being a brilliant musician was also, if nothing else a pragmatist. It was his unfailing grip on reality that often kept the entire show on the straight and narrow. He would tell us if a song was wrong or right for what we wanted to do with it, he would say in the nicest possible way if a song was too hard, and he would constantly be adjusting the key and speed of a song to suit the capabilities of the singers in question.
He was certainly not a man known to flights of fancy when it came to putting a show song together. So, in this particular show, Little Miss Muffet in 1992, many of you may recall, we had a character called Johnny Jive who was a travelling Rock and Roll singer and he had a band called the Jivettes. They were wandering through the show looking for a new gig, having recently finished a tour on the cruise ships.
Now, it is worth me explaining that Johnny Jive was Steve Conlon, and his Jivettes were Steve Makinson, Dave Lee and Colin Duce, with Mike Lowell as the knock about joker of the troupe. A better more entertaining singing group you could not have mustered and their acapella version of ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’ to get the dame to sleep is still talked about today and would have walked away with top spot had X-Factor been a ‘thing’ back then.
At one stage during the show they had a song in front of tabs, you know a typical few minutes filling in whilst the backcloth is changed – I think it was Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti, a classic rock n roll number, and one that lasts officially 2 minutes and 26 seconds.
However, this genre of music happened to be our patient, calm, pragmatic Musical Director’s favourite style, and so by the time the show went on 2 minutes twenty-six seconds of Tutti Frutti had become a 15-minute medley of at least five rock n roll songs, with Alan playing standing up and the audience also out of their seats dancing and clapping along. Then to cap it all the whole medley culminated in our very own Connie leaping of stage and sliding, yes sliding, down the aisle on his knees.
I wrote and produced that show and as most of you know I wasn’t prone to writing short ones. So, the last thing Little Miss Muffet in 1992 needed was a 15-minute tab change but, on this one occasion, that wasn’t going to stop Alan.
Under Alan’s Musical Direction we grew as a Group and truly became a community pantomime. For those of you that read the programme notes you will know from his pen picture that Alan’s work was formally acknowledged and he was honoured to receive an invitation to the Queen’s garden party in order to recognise his contribution to Music in the Community. So, it is the end of an era, a very progressive era that we will all remember fondly, and Alan, our dear friend and colleague, will be sorely missed.
I have to be honest and say that at one point I expected this AGM to be something of a summit meeting for the Group. A meeting where we had some key decisions to make about not just the Group’s future, but its very existence. I was concerned about whether even more Group members would become unavailable moving forward and we would enter a downward spiral – the beginning of the end. But, the hurdles we have faced this year, not just regarding Alan, but with regards to the vacant roles that were, in some cases, only temporarily filled, haven’t splintered the Group at all but have in fact brought us closer together.
When you’re involved in a Group that contains such a diverse demographic of members, and with such a vast age range added to which you receive regular complaints from the local residents over inconsiderate parking, it is easy to lose sight of what we have here with St Andrew’s Pantomime Group.
Let us not forget the work we do, the community service we provide, the ticket prices that haven’t increased for many years, the free of charge drama-based activity that we provide to South Leeds. Let us not forget that we have been honoured by the Duke of York himself.
I will not allow this group to fade away, we have invested too much over many years for that to ever happen, and I know that many of you feel the same way.
The show following our next will be the Group’s 50th Annual pantomime. So, this year more than ever, let’s all pull together, support one another, say when there is a problem so we can all work together to fix it, let’s all be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Let’s all belong to one team keeping Pantomime in the Community!